After simmering for two days over a botched announcement by NFL owners, the players have calmed down enough to focus on reaching an agreement by Monday to end the league's lockout.
A source with knowledge of the situation confirmed a report by ESPN's Chris Mortensen that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith have settled the last remaining issues and expect to have a deal in place by Monday. If all goes well, players would likely report to their teams by Wednesday. The NFLPA is expected to recertify as a union some time during the week, clearing the way for a new collective bargaining agreement that would span 10 years.
In keeping with the proposal the league laid out on Thursday night, the NFL is also expected to work out a three-day window for teams to sign their draft picks and re-sign veteran free agents who were on their team last year, although the contracts wouldn't be official until the NFLPA became a union again. In addition, teams will be able to talk to all veteran free agents and undrafted rookies, though deals could not be struck until after the aforementioned three-day window.
All of this came together quickly after tempers subsided on the players' side. Smith and many players expressed concern (some of it bordering on anger) for how the owners handled negotiations at the end. The players felt they were being forced into a deal when the owners approved what the league called an "agreement." Fact is, there was no agreement.
That led to wild speculation throughout the player and agent community on Friday with some players going so far as to say they might let a week or two of the preseason go by before a deal was agreed upon. Given time to calm down, many agents and players considered the larger scope of the proposal presented to them and felt the deal had far more good than bad.
"Overall, it's pretty balanced when you consider all the details," one agent said Friday. "I told most of my players to take a breath and think it through. As [angry] as they were about what the NFL did, you have to look at the offer logically and figure out what's fair."
Said another agent: "A lot of players looked at what the owners did, even the 31-0 vote, and started saying, 'If they think it's so great, they must be killing us at the table.' I don't know every detail of the deal, but it really doesn't look that way when you consider the whole package."
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